The discovery of a dead sperm whale at Kapota Island in Indonesia this week was sad enough, but the animal also quickly became a stark reminder of the serious environmental issues surrounding plastic pollution in the world's oceans.
The sperm whale's stomach contained two flip-flop sandals, a tangle of plastic ropes, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and 115 plastic cups. The plastic debris weighed 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms).
Due to the whale's decomposition, the team could not determine if the plastic played a role in its death. The Jakarta Post reports the body will be buried at a nearby beach.
According to the WWF, more than 8.8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. Sea animals can easily mistake plastics for food and ingest everything from grocery bags to straws.
Researchers, governments and conservation organizations are working on curbing the problem throughand , but the whale's plight shows we have a lot left to do.